[UPDATE 05/16/07] After spending between 15-20 hours on the new computer in the last week, HP fixed their telephone lines and I got in touch with my case manager – who was very efficient. They are going to replace the whole computer. Fedex is picking up the old one today and I should have the new one next week.
[UPDATE 05/17/07] Someone from the small & medium business division emailed me to apologize for sending me two monitors – apparently this error occurred due to a system issue. She wanted to know if I “would like to keep the monitor or return it; this would be at no charge of course.” I assume the return would be at no charge and not the “keep” option…sigh
Depending on how you look at it, this could be the funniest or saddest buying experience – I will let you be the judge of that. This is my story of trying to buy an HP media center PC – a fairly high end machine by desktop standards. Unfortunately there are so many “Colbert-esque” twists and turns to this story that it became really long – so I apologize for the length of this marketing horror story…but I am sure you will relate to some parts of it.
First was the actual buying experience – I decided to buy an HP Media Center from the Home Office division but did not like the monitor choices from that online store. In looking around I found what I wanted in their small and medium business division’s store. Trying to buy that monitor did not exactly go as smooth as expected. Not only did I need a different account with different rules to be able to buy this product, which all by itself caused some problems as I described last week, but they shipped me two monitors – even though all my records and confirmations show that I only purchased one. You might think that was a good thing – getting a spare monitor for free. Not so, they also charged me twice (not right away, mind you, but a few days after I received the order)!
Hmmm…come to think of it, I may have stumbled across the secret HP formula for success…just send duplicate orders to your customers, charge them for it only a few days after someone accepted the order, and hope that nobody will notice 🙂
The real story started when I got my brand new machine on Tuesday of last week. Somehow I could not get the sound to work. I tinkered with it for a few nights thinking that it must be a classic case of “stupid user errors,” but no, I could not get it to work. On Friday I finally got in touch with their support department and spend a long time online with the first technician, who took me through all her possible help screens to debug my problem. She finally told me that the system was somehow not recognizing the Soundblaster card, which her system showed as having shipped with my new computer, and that I should shut off the computer, open up the tower and re-seat the Soundblaster card. And if that did not work I should reload the drivers. ..easy, that should solve my problem.
So I did that, but never found the Soundblaster card. Thinking that perhaps Soundblaster had stopped branding their product, I decided to re-seat all the boards I could find. When that did not work I reloaded some audio drivers but not the Soundblaster drivers, as I could not find them. So I got back in touch with the award winning HP support department.
The second tech took me through many of the same steps and also some new ones. After what seemed like an eternity she finally gave up, sending me a link to all the help screens she was going through to troubleshoot my system and saying: “Francois, Please try the steps from the article if that does not resolve the issue we will take the PC for physical evaluation. This will get your issue resolved” (in quotes taken from the actual chat transcript) I thought she had not noticed that besides buying a PC with all the bells and whistles, I had also bought an in-house support plan – the type that promises to send a technician to your house or office if something does not work. So I mentioned that to her and also said that her proposed resolution was unacceptable. I also asked her how I could return the PC and inquired about further escalation possibilities. By now, the only thing she was concerned about was: “Are you ready to send the PC to our factory, so that we would physically evaluate the PC and get the issue resolved.” When I asked what was included as part of the in-house service plan she answered “The in-home service would cover replacement of hardware component if any..” How she decided that this was not a hardware issue is a mystery to me – after all the first tech rep told me that it sounded like the system was not recognizing a piece of hardware….was it even there? When I asked for a manager she told me that a “quality manager” would call me back within 48 hours – which BTW still has not happened.
I can assure you that it was a lovely way to spend 3 hours on a Friday night – thank you HP!
On Saturday I took a closer look at the in-house plan that I bought, only to realize that you have to register that thing within 10 days or else it becomes null and void. I opted for the online registration. The system prompted me for some personal information and then for my products’ serial numbers and product numbers. At first it would not accept the product numbers which were listed on both the computer itself and on the invoice. It presented me instead with a series of numbers that did not resemble anything that I had received from HP. I picked one anyway but then the system told me that it could not register my computer’s serial number as it did not exist. Thankfully there was a human-based backup system reachable by fax which figured it out based on the numbers that the online process had rejected.
…another hour well spent on a beautiful Saturday – thank you again HP.
As you can imagine, by now I was livid…
I got a sliver of hope when I discovered the HP Marketing Excellence Blog authored by an HP VP of Marketing Strategy & Excellence who had just received some award by Brandweek for being a marketing exec who “gets it.” Hooray, someone at HP was engaging in the market conversation. I left a comment on his blog saying that I wished I could congratulate him for his new award, but that while he might “get it,” he had obviously not been able to instill that “getting it” into his company’s culture. Since marketing is all about making sure that all the customer touch points reinforce the same marketing promise you make at the point of sale, I told him that I could not consider HP’s marketing successful and worthy of an award. He approved the comment really fast and sent me an email explaining that he would see what he could do to help me. I thanked him with some additional details of my ordeal so he would have all the ammunition to get this resolved. I also lefr a message on their customer experience blog – pointing out some the problems with site incompatibilities which I had encountered and the form that did not work, but that comment has yet to be approved.
Unfortunately things did not improve after that…
When by 3pm yesterday I did not get a call from anyone, I sent the VP a quick note letting him know that I had not heard from anyone. Shortly afterwards I got a call from a senior case manager who introduced herself and gave me a phone number with two extensions, one for my case and one her personal extension – unfortunately I was on the phone when she called and so that information came to me via my voice mail box. When I called back and dialed her extension, I got a message that this extension was an invalid extension. When I dialed the extension for my case the system would hang up on me. Thinking that perhaps it had to do with my VoIP service I tried repeatedly from my cell (T-Mobile) as well as from my home phone (Verizon) – but in each case the system would keep hanging up on me. I recorded this experience, so you can listen to what it sounds like to call HP support if interested.
Not believing that this award-winning support department would do this sort of thing I kept trying, finally entering a random set of numbers which got me to by-pass the IVR and put me into the general queue for their case management service. When I finally got a live person I asked to be connected with the extension of my case manager – only to be told that he could not connect me to that extension. He asked me for all sorts of information to identify myself and subsequently transferred me to someone else who asked me for all the same information – and also unwilling to connect me to my case manager. 45 minutes later I got transferred to a third person who first asked me “how” he could help me, but then quickly sensed the mood and tried to connect me with my case manager. When that failed he asked for my number and proceeded to give me the “right” number for me to call back – which was the same number I had tried all along. I asked him to use his cell phone or some other phone to call that number himself and verify that it kept hanging up on me. He said he would, put me on hold and NEVER came back. I did receive an email from my case manager saying that she was unsuccessful in reaching me via phone (1 try!), but that I could call her back at her personal extension – that same defunct number. I tried to reply to the message but it was one of the mailboxes you cannot reply to…
…another 2 hours well spent – thank you HP!
If anyone at HP is listening, here are a couple of recommendations:
- Stop your marketing – if your post-sale processes are set up to destroy your brand promise as it did for me, then all your marketing dollars are wasted resources. They will not buy customer loyalty, which is where your long term profitability will come from
- Stop focusing on optimizing mind-less processes. Empower some humans to by-pass the processes and get the customer the help they deserve. Build escalation steps within your support infrastructure that includes real techies – not telephone operators who are following a set of screenshots to debug a system
- Fix my problem or send someone to pack up and pick up this machine – as a small business owner I cannot afford to spend any more time on your problems, and I certainly do not want to inherit them
Buying and supporting PCs is getting worse than dealing with airlines. Even my $4-7 (for full fault tolerance) a month ISP is offering me better service.
Hopefully someone at Lenovo is paying attention – if this is how their competition deals with customers it cannot be that hard to capture all those lost souls and turn them into life-long loyal customers.
Click to hear the sound of HP support hanging up on you…